Today Governor Wolf shared his budget proposal for the next ‘20-’21 fiscal year. I am encouraged the Governor has again proposed progress on key issues including:
Pennsylvania has not passed a minimum wage increase in over a decade. I am excited that Governor Wolf is proposing an increase to $12/hour with a phased increase to $15/hour over the next several years. The legislature needs to get to work on a proposal that will increase wages while supporting small businesses and employers affected by stagnant rates from our state government.
Jobs & the Economy
The Governor is also responding to the Workforce Command Center report to create more family-sustaining jobs. This is partially through ensuring access to unemployment compensation for laid-off workers during retraining, and addressing barriers like affordable child care and transportation.
The governor proposed increases of $30 million for pre-k to serve an additional 3,270 children, $25 million for special education, $100 million for basic education, and $13.5 million for early intervention. These programs are essential to ensuring our local schools and early learning programs have the resources they need to equitably serve all children.
Expanding full-day Kindergarten is critical not just because it is good for children and supports families, but it also ensures that our schools retain Kindergarten teachers with knowledge of developmentally appropriate practice. State curriculums & assessments have pushed key skills like reading and computation down into Kindergarten, unintentionally creating long-term challenges such as a growing special education population. Ensuring children have time to build their social and emotional skills through creative, play-based activities that expose them to pre-literacy and numeracy skills is an essential benefit of full-day Kindergarten.
Minimum teacher salary
I am excited to see the Governor again propose a minimum teacher salary that ensures we are paying our teaching professionals for their skills and expertise. While the raise actually only affects a small number of teachers in our state, it is critical that we begin the conversation around the value of a K-12 teacher. I am hopeful that this conversation will expand promptly to ensure our pre-k, infant, and toddler teachers are also valued for their credentials and role in shaping children’s educational foundation.